Senator William “Bill” Soules: Let’s Grow Our Local Distillery and Restaurant Economies

The State Legislature had a promising opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and to help hundreds of small businesses grow and expand across our state this week, but unfortunately that opportunity was extinguished at a committee hearing.   I had proposed simple legislation that would have allowed restaurants with beer and wine licenses to also serve spirits such as tequila, gin, vodka, brandy and so on, provided that they are distilled in New Mexico.

State Senator Bill Soules
State Senator Bill Soules

Full liquor licenses, subject to market forces, today carry a hefty price tag that cost from $500,000 to $1 million.  That frequently leaves the big national chain restaurants as the only establishments in a community that can afford to operate a full bar in New Mexico.  That shuts out our mom-and-pop, home-grown restaurants from a lot of customers and business.   I think that’s wrong.  That is why I introduced Senate Bill 71 (SB 71) to enable restaurants that currently have a wine and beer license to additionally offer New Mexico-produced distillery spirits without purchasing a high-cost, full-bar liquor license.

New Mexico distilleries such as Don Quixote Distillery and Winery, Santa Fe Spirits, Left Turn Distillery, Algodones Distillery, and KGB Spirits would get a chance to showcase their masterpieces in some of New Mexico’s finest dining establishments in our urban and rural communities.  When the distilleries grow, they hire more New Mexicans.

The high price of purchasing a full liquor license puts them out of reach for many local small restaurants, sometimes putting their survival at risk.  My bill was designed to increase local jobs, and level the playing field for local small businesses.  The training is already in place for new employees of the restaurants that this legislation targeted.   If my bill had gotten through the legislative process, the decision to enact would have gone to local governments for a vote.

Creating jobs should be our first priority.  Helping our home-grown restaurants to grow means they will hire more cooks and wait staff.  Distilleries will hire more employees. State and local governments will see more revenue in taxes.

We should encourage New Mexico branding, which feeds tourism by promoting high quality local products. Platforms like the one this bill would create help put New Mexico on the map and keep our local business owners and producers in business.  I will continue to push for New Mexico products, and I intend to bring this bill back again in a future legislative session.